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Algerian Chronicles

Written by Albert Camus | Introduced by Alice Kaplan | Translated by Arthur Goldhammer | May 2013
Algerian Chronicles
Belknap Press | May 2013

More than fifty years after Algerian independence, Albert Camus’ Algerian Chronicles appears here in English for the first time. Published in France in 1958, the same year the Algerian War brought about the collapse of the Fourth French Republic, it is one of Camus’ most political works—an exploration of his commitments to Algeria. Dismissed or disdained at publication, today Algerian Chronicles, with its prescient analysis of the dead end of terrorism, enjoys a new life in Arthur Goldhammer’s elegant translation.

“Believe me when I tell you that Algeria is where I hurt at this moment,” Camus, who was the most visible symbol of France’s troubled relationship with Algeria, writes, “as others feel pain in their lungs.” Gathered here are Camus’ strongest statements on Algeria from the 1930s through the 1950s, revised and supplemented by the author for publication in book form.

In her introduction, Alice Kaplan illuminates the dilemma faced by Camus: he was committed to the defense of those who suffered colonial injustices, yet was unable to support Algerian national sovereignty apart from France. An appendix of lesser-known texts that did not appear in the French edition complements the picture of a moralist who posed questions about violence and counter-violence, national identity, terrorism, and justice that continue to illuminate our contemporary world.

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Reviews

Timeless musings on torture, terror, assimilation and extremism… Ultimately, [Camus’s] writing represents a moral plea for an idealism beyond politics.- Kirkus Reviews

This first English translation of his Chroniques Algériennes (1958) proves parochial and universal, timely and timeless… The impassioned, politically committed Camus addresses issues that feel as current today as they did more than 50 years ago. - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

It was the last book Camus published in his lifetime, and it appears now in its entirety for the first time in English, expertly translated by Arthur Goldhammer. The editor, Alice Kaplan, has added six texts to Camus’s original selection in an appendix, to further illuminate Camus’s relation to Algeria… As the writings in Algerian Chronicles make clear, Camus’s position in ‘no man’s land’ left him increasingly isolated: hated by the right for his condemnation of government policies, scorned by the left for his inability to imagine an independent Algeria from which the French would be absent… As Kaplan points out, we cannot know how he would have reacted to the final years of the war, or to the independence that followed. We do know that his ethical positions are still meaningful, worldwide. - Susan Rubin Suleiman, The New York Times Book Review

Camus was a far more engaged writer than his critics have allowed, and the essays, columns and speeches collected here make a strong case for his continued relevance… Today, although his failure to support full independence for Algeria seems off the mark, Camus stands as a powerful voice against violence and extremism, and the very late appearance of these essays in English could not have come at a better time… With the future of the Arab spring uncertain and with terrorism back on the front page, these Algerian Chronicles are not only history. They’re also guides for how to be just in a difficult world. - Jason Farago, NPR Books


Article originally published by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States on frenchculture.org.

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